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On October 25, 2021, the White House issued a presidential proclamation that will be effective November 8, 2021 that rescinds the current regional COVID-19 travel bans and imposes a COVID-19 vaccination requirement on nonimmigrants traveling by air from any country to the U.S.

The new vaccination requirements will apply to nonimmigrant air travel from anywhere abroad to the U.S., but they will not apply to land border travel. It is expected that visa appointment delays are likely as visa demand increases at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

Under the new policy, effective November 8, 2021, foreign nationals ages 18 and older seeking to enter the U.S. as nonimmigrants will need to show proof of full COVID vaccination prior to boarding an airplane from abroad. This vaccine requirement will be in addition to the existing requirement for all international travelers to provide a negative COVID test taken within three days of travel.

Who is exempt from the new policy?

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents are not subject to the new air travel vaccine requirement. Immigrant visa holders are also not impacted by the proclamation. The following are exempt from the new policy:

  • Children under the age of 18;
  • Low vaccine availability. Foreign nationals of countries with less than a 10% total vaccination rate in the population, or countries otherwise determined by the CDC to qualify as having limited vaccine availability. Importantly, this exception will not apply to B-1/B-2 travel.
  • Medical contraindications. Those with documented medical contraindications for the COVID vaccination, as determined by the CDC;
  • Humanitarian/emergency. This exception will be granted in limited circumstances only when the individual must travel to the U.S. to preserve health and safety, and is unable to access or complete the vaccination before travel.
  • COVID clinical trials. Those who participated in certain COVID vaccine clinical trials, as determined by the CDC;
  • Others including certain air and sea crew members, U.S. armed forces and immediate family, and certain diplomatic or U.N. travel;
  • Those whose entry would be in the “national interest” as determined by the State Department, the Transportation Department or the Department of Homeland Security.

What qualifies as “fully vaccinated?”

The CDC has confirmed that only vaccines approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) will be accepted. The list can be found on the CDC website.

The agency considers a person fully vaccinated 14 days after the last dose of an accepted vaccine series (whether one- or two-dose). “Mix-and-match” vaccine doses will be accepted as long as both vaccines are on the FDA or WHO lists and the doses are administered at least 17 days apart.

Digital or paper documentation will be accepted by the airlines in order to verify vaccination status, as long as the record contains:

  • Biographical information that matches the foreign national’s travel documents;
  • Name of official source issuing the record (e.g. public health agency, authorized vaccine provider)
  • Vaccine manufacturer
  • Date(s) of vaccination

SWLG will provide further updates regarding this matter as they become available.